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Get a "Real" Job

Recently, I was speaking with someone about one of my trips who said he would never stay in an Airbnb like I did.  He only stays in Marriott hotels.  Calmly I said, "It's nice that you can afford to do that."  "Well," he shot back, "I've worked hard for my money!"  Hmm... Was he being defensive or was he implying something about me? 

I often wonder what people think I do as an artist.  When someone seems offended by the cost of a painting, do they imagine me whipping it off in an hour and then spending the rest of my day walking through gardens with a faraway look in my eyes?  I wish that were true!  When I had what some might consider a "real" job, I had plenty of time for walking through gardens.  Since deciding to be a full-time artist a year and a half ago I've been working at least 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, and often doing things I've never done before that are way outside of my comfort zone.  I'm not painting that entire time.  My art is my business, so I have to do all the tasks that any other business does:


  • Buy painting supplies (online or go to a store)

  • Take reference photos or sort through previous photos

  • Create paintings

  • Photograph finished pieces

  • Document painting info in inventory catalog

  • Frame pieces

  • Update website with new pieces & remove sold ones

  • Update inventory catalog with customer info after sales

  • Take a class to improve painting or business skills


  • Create social media posts

  • Write a blog post or create a newsletter (or both)

  • Attend networking events

  • Meet with potential business partners

  • Create printed materials (business cards, postcards, etc.)

  • Create, rework, or update website look and capabilities

  • Analyze website & social media stats

  • Create advertising

  • Research new ways to advertise


  • Research opportunities for showing work

  • Submit work to shows & galleries

  • Set up and be present for fairs, receptions, & open studios

  • Meet with potential customers

  • Deliver finished paintings to customers

  • Deliver paintings to current art reps

  • Create & send invoices

I don't do every single one of these things every day, but I do almost all of them within the course of every week.  And they all require time and effort, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the task and how much of my Self I have to put into it. 

Tasks aside, painting itself requires a lot of time and effort.  There have been a few instances when a painting has sprung fully formed from my mind onto the canvas, but only a few.  Typically they take many hours - especially for commissioned portraits when it's critical to get not only the physical likeness of an animal but also exude its unique personality.  That's why custom work costs a little more, though I try to make it more affordable by offering occasional sales, layaway, and discounts for repeat customers. 

But the truth is that the value of a piece art to the person buying it can't be measured by mere dollars anyway.  They're not buying labor or materials, they're buying the intangible feeling the art gives them: joy, memory, hope, beauty, or fulfillment.  That's the artist's job - to make the intangible real.  And if that's not a real job, I honestly don't know what is.

PS - Someday I expect my bank account will reflect my efforts but either way I'll still stay in Airbnb's.

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